Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Saturday, December 11, 2010 03:02:05|
Falkland Islands 2010: 2 - Sea Lion Island
Thursday & Friday, December 9 & 10, 2010
We took our time packing as our flight from Bleaker wasn't until 11:30 AM. When Robert pulled up with the Land Rover everyone was looking forward to our next adventure. We did well getting away when we did, as force 10 gales were predicted for the afternoon. When we arrived at the landing site we drove the length of the grass strip and back to chase the wild geese off! During the 15 minute flight it was easy to see places we had visited on Bleaker Island, and how small Sea Lion Island was in comparison. The landing strip at Sea Lion was right beside the lodge, a walk of only a few steps.
Sea Lion Island is now an official nature reserve, so has no more livestock, other than two horses over 20 years old who are being allowed to live out their last days here. As there are neither domestic animals nor rats on the island there is a profusion of bird species. The island is only 2,236 acres (906 Ha) and the length is 5 miles (8 km). The surface is 20% covered by tussock grass, in which seals, sea lions and magellanic penguins like to lay or nest. Besides the magellanic, there were some 8,000 gentoos in various nesting areas and hundreds of elephant seals and sea lions. Orcas, or killer whales (which are actually a type of dolphin) would come right up to the beach in their efforts to make seal pups their next meal.
The comfortable lodge has a nice four table dining room, a lounge with sofas and a well stocked bar, a games and video room and a conservatory where shoes are left when entering. The twin rooms each have a bathroom - the kids had one room, Marilynn and I another. The bar is on the honour system - just write down what you take. Saisha had a great time playing bartender in a real bar!
Jenny, the manager, laid on a familiarization tour by Land Rover shortly after lunch. The drive took us to areas where sea lions were breeding, beaches where huge populations of elephant seals were also breeding, an area of rock hopper rookeries, a giant petrel nesting beach and a beautiful sand beach favoured by the gentoo penguins. It was necessary to weave around huge sites of gentoo and magellanic penguins. While we were at a breeding area of elephant seals we were fortunate in seeing Orcas coming right into the kept near shore in pursuit of seal pups. Daniel had been saying all day how he wanted to see Orcas, and we didn't give him much encouragement as we couldn't imagine them coming so close to shore, so he was over the moon.
We decided to walk back to the settlement from the beach, first having fun watching penguins playing in the surf, then weaving between sea lions and clusters of gentoos before cutting across fields spotted with large gentoo rookeries. Most of the thousands of gentoos had two chicks, some quite large, and like everywhere mothers were having a time of it keeping the young ones under control.
After dinner the four of us played cards before heading to bed - I was falling asleep at the card table! The food here is excellent, and we were soon sound asleep in comfortable beds.
Friday morning started out miserable and rainy, but true to the Falkland's reputation of providing all four seasons in one day, it soon cleared up. Even though internet is expensive, it was available so I opted out of the morning expedition to do an update and to go over business emails. The kids and Marilynn were back before I had finished with excited stories of huge breeding sites of elephant seals. The giant bulls have left, but younger bulls and females are here in force.
After lunch Jenny loaned us a Land Rover which I drove near to where they had seen the seals. It was as amazing as they had said. We walked quite a distance along the cliffs, looking at literally piles of elephant seals on the beach. The young males would fight each other regularly to establish the pecking order, causing a number of open sores on each other with their sharp teeth. Small birds would then hop on to torment them as they ate from the open wounds. We ended our walk at a deep pool in the rocks near shore, where orcas come in at high tide to get inside the seal nesting areas in their efforts to devour the pups.
On our way back, I was struggling through tussock grass higher than my head, when a sharp pain in my right leg indicated I had inadvertently come close to a magellanic penguin nest. His attack cut a line across my leg, and he stood not 6 inches away threatening to do it again! Obviously size is not a deterrent to these little guys - he didn't even come up to my knee but was not about to back off an inch! I apologized and cleared out of his territory.
After dropping Marilynn & the kids off near the beach we were on yesterday I drove the Land Rover back to the lodge, dodging penguins and seals in the process. When they returned they said there were no seals at all on the beach today, a surprise as there were lots yesterday. Apparently they had moved higher into the grassy areas.
The rest of the sunny, cold afternoon was spent watching videos of the orcas in the pond we had seen earlier, and studies done on them in various areas around the world. After another good dinner the kids took on Marilynn and I at cards, thoroughly thrashing us.
We had intended to go to the pool in the rocks to see the orcas the next morning, but high tide was not until 10:30 AM, and our flight to Carcass Island was scheduled for just after 9 AM, making it impossible.